Andre Russell’s pyrotechniques dimmed Chris Gayle majesty as Rajshahi Royals beat Chattogram Challengers by two wickets in a thrilling Second Qualifier of the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Chasing a stiff target of 165, Rajshahi looked all at sea, losing half their batters by the 15th over and with half the runs yet to get. But Andre Russel turned the game on its head with a scintillating show of power-hitting, scoring an unbeaten 22-ball 54 to see his side home with two wickets in hand and four balls to spare.
Rajshahi’s chase of 165 had got off to a poor start, with in-form openers Liton Das (6) and Afif Hossain (2) departing early. Left-hander Irfan Shukkur was the only highlight of their innings at the top, scoring 45 off 42 balls as the Chattogram bowlers kept things tight.
But as the chase looked like out of sight, Russell arrived and hit the Chattogram bowlers all around the ground to clinch victory and a final berth for his side. Russell’s Rajshahi will now take on Mushfiqur Rahim’s Khulna Tigers in the BBPL final tomorrow.
Earlier, despite a flying start provided by Gayle, Chattogram, who were sent in to bat first, lost their way in the middle and eventually posted 164 for 9 in 20 overs.
Chattogram lost opener Ziaur Rahman (6) and in-form Imrul Kayes (5) cheaply, Gayle was in punishing mood. The Jamaican hit the ball all over the park. After remaining quiet in his first three BBPL games, the ‘Universe Boss’ got his groove back and struck a blistering 20 ball fifty — his first in the ongoing tournament.
Chattogram were cruising towards a big total and at one stage were 97 for two inside 10 overs before Gayle was bowled by Afif Hossain for a 24- ball 60 which featured five sixes and six fours.
Skipper Mahmudullah Riyad tried to keep the tempo by striking three sixes and equal number of fours, but he, too, departed after a quick-fire 33 off 18 balls. Chattogram, who were eyeing to post a total of somewhere near the 200-run mark, kept losing wickets after that and added just 36 runs in the last five overs.
Rajshahi’s two Pakistani bowlers — Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Nawaz — picked up two wickets each.